Benfica travelled to Germany to take on Bayern Munich for the First Leg of the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday night. Fresh from their impressive 5-1 humbling of 4th placed Braga on Friday and, having won their last eight games in all competitions, the Lisbon giants were hoping for a sound performance at the Allianz Arena. And with a return leg to take place at the Estádio da Luz next week, there was much to be had for Benfica if they could keep it tight.

Rui Vitória named an attack-minded line-up for this game, keeping faith with the starting XI which beat Braga. Jonas partnered Kostas Mitroglou up top while Renato Sanches and Ljubomir Fejsa would occupy the central midfield. Ederson continued between the sticks in the absence of the injured Júlio César and 21-year-old Swedish international, Victor Lindelöf, continued to partner Jardel in the centre of defence. It was left to Eliseu and André Almeida to attempt to nullify the wide threat.

First Half

This game began with the inevitable as Bayern enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. And it wasn’t long before it bore fruits for the Germans. Bernat received the ball out on the left and the Spaniard had time and space to pick his spot with a cross which found the head of Arturo Vidal. The Chilean managed to get ahead of his marker, Eliseu, and head home powerfully past Ederson to make it 1-0 after just 2 minutes.

Bayern’s use of the with of the pitch was causing issues for Benfica’s full-backs and, on 10 minutes, Bayern were busy testing the Benfica rearguard again. This time the threat came from the right where Douglas Costa cut inside from a wide position. With Eliseu rapidly closing the Brazilian down, he released a low drive but this was comfortably dealt with by his compatriot, Ederson.

Benfica did manage to create their first half chance about 10 minutes later. André Almeida found himself with time to angle a cross from the right towards Kostas Mitroglou. The Greek striker, ironically brought up in Germany, tried to direct his header goalwards but ultimately was unable to trouble Manuel Neuer who watched it sail harmlessly wide.

Just moments later, Benfica found themselves on the back foot again as Bayern went on the attack. A clever piece of skill by Thiago saw him dink the ball over the top of the Benfica defence from the edge of the box. With the back four playing for offside, Thomas Müller took advantage and snuck around the back. With the German international in space, he opted to take the shot on by way of a first-time volley which was well saved by Ederson. Benfica were living dangerously.

On the half hour, Benfica saw a spell of possession which culminated in finding Nico Gaitán on the left. His low ball into the Bayern box was blocked by the arm of the diving Philipp Lahm. Gaitán appealed for a penalty but play was waved on and the Argentine retrieved the loose ball, teeing up Eliseu for a fierce drive from outside the box. The left-back’s effort sailed well over the bar.

Ederson was having a busy first half and had already distinguished himself when he was called into action again on 33 minutes. After Ljubomir Fejsa had fouled Franck Ribéry on the edge of the box, the free-kick was taken by Thiago. The Spanish international conjured up another beautifully weighted dink over the Benfica wall and Thomas Müller again stole in behind the rearguard. Fortunately for the Lisbon side, Ederson was again down quickly, this time at the feet the German. The stand-in stopper was proving his worth.

There was still time for another good Bayern chance before the break. Arturo Vidal was again the beneficiary as Thomas Müller turned provider. His cross from the right found the head of the Chilean who had got in between Lindelöf and Almeida in the middle. Fortunately for Benfica, Vidal could only head the ball downwards into the turf and the momentum forced it to bound up and over the bar to keep the status quo.

Second Half

Despite Bayern continuing to enjoy possession at the beginning of the second half, the first real chance after the break went to the visitors. Jonas made a nuisance of himself in the Bayern box and managed to create space for himself by turning Bayern defender, David Alaba. The Brazilian then got his shot away but it was blocked by Neuer in what was a golden opportunity for Benfica.

There was worse to come for Jonas just moments later when he received a yellow card for a foul on Arturo Vidal in the middle third. The booking means that Benfica’s top scorer this season will miss the return leg in Lisbon next week.

Jonas was again involved on 64 minutes with possibly Benfica’s best chance of the game. A low cross into the box from André Almeida found Jonas with space but his shot was blocked by Bayern substitute, Javi Martínez. The rebound then found its ways back to Jonas again but this time he fired well over the bar in what can be considered a real let off for the hosts.

As the German fans’ frustrations began to grow, Bayern had to wait until 81 minutes for a real sight on goal in the second half. Franck Ribery again caused problems on the left, this time employing trickery to evade the challenges of Almeida and Gaitán  Working his way into the box at pace, the Frenchman unleashed a low shot towards the near post but Ederson was equal to it once more.

And just before the end of normal time, Bayern had possibly their best chance to wrap it up. A superb through ball by Vidal caught the Benfica defence flat-footed. Robert Lewandowski ran in behind and tried to slip the ball back across goal for Philipp Lahm. The Pole’s pass was overhit and the chance was gone as Lahm struggled to keep the ball from reaching the byline.

On A Knife Edge

And so Benfica go into the second leg on home turf next Wednesday with just the one goal deficit to overturn. If you'd offered that to any Benfiquista before tonight, they'd surely have taken it. They had to be patient for the most part, Bayern seeing 68% of possession over the first leg. However, the Lisbon side caused problems for Bayern at times tonight and, even without Jonas, will fancy that they can get at the Bayern rearguard.

The central defensive pairing of Jardel and Lindelöf were superb for Benfica in Munich. The second half was especially strong from the back four as they looked to snuff out the wide threats of Ribery and Costa. They also managed to keep the prolific Robert Lewandowski quiet. But special mention must also go to Ederson who was superb in goal and was Benfica's saviour in the first half, especially. 

There will doubtless be a full house at the Luz next week and the Benfiquista's will create a hostile atmosphere for Munich to come into. Munich are a top side but it's a brave person who bets against this Benfica team this season...

 

by Paul Gellard

Comments (16)

  1. SupremoGino

I think I can speak for most benfiquistas when I say how proud I am of Benfica today and their efforts facing a stellar Bayern side who is accustomed to wiping the floor with teams at the Allianz Arena. Most notably the 6-1 demolishing of FC...

I think I can speak for most benfiquistas when I say how proud I am of Benfica today and their efforts facing a stellar Bayern side who is accustomed to wiping the floor with teams at the Allianz Arena. Most notably the 6-1 demolishing of FC Porto last year, and 4-0 against FC Barcelona the year prior. Admittedly, the result still leaves a feeling of bitterness. It should have been a clear penalty when Gaitan's pass struck the arm of Lahm in the penalty area and of course losing Jonas for the 2nd leg in a massive blow. We clearly see he had his shirt pulled from behind when making a dangerous run down the center of the final third. There are only two explanations for not making the right call. Either UEFA only hires referees who they can easily bribe or the referees that UEFA hires are all suffering from chronic vision loss.

Now being down only 1-0 on aggregate.. one would typically feel that Benfica has a decent chance of progression. I'd usually agree with that notion but I just can't visualize it against a team like Bayern. They suffocated us out of possession literally. If you made a vow only to breathe while Benfica were in control of the ball, you'd probably not make it. So if there is anyone out there who would dare to try.. please don't.

On a positive note, we still managed to create some golden scoring opportunities and we really should have scored. One away goal would of been so vital. Even while I doubt it.. advancing to the next round is still doable. Benfica showed that they keep Lewandowski quiet, minimize the threat posed by Ribery, and keep the floodgates from opening. But now they need to be able to conjure some decent build up play and moments of possession if there is going to be any chance of scoring while keeping a rock solid line at the back. Can Rui Vitoria find a way to crack Pep Guardiola's cowardly tiki-taka style?

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  1. Chris

A few points from a non-Benfica fan. Bayern under Pep Guardiola are so over-inflated, that frankly all commentators I have watched should be replaced with real professionals. All I heard yesterday was how Bayern could not play like this against...

A few points from a non-Benfica fan. Bayern under Pep Guardiola are so over-inflated, that frankly all commentators I have watched should be replaced with real professionals. All I heard yesterday was how Bayern could not play like this against Barcelona or Madrid. Already looking to the next stage of the tournament, disrespecting not only Benfica but also Atletico. Bayern has under-performed under Pep. They play in a one-team league and he has brought them backwards compared to the accomplishments of Jupp Heycknes.

Honestly, it's enough to turn me off the Champions League entirely. Benfica is not my team, but to say that yesterday was a one-sided affair is a joke. It was obvious from the get-go that Vitoria had them playing for a draw and then to limit goal-damage. Fesja and Renato played much closer to each other and Eliseu who spends more time in the final third than anywhere else, was chained to the back line. I thought Andre Almeida and Eliseu were poor. Pizzi was also not to his usual standard. Ederson however, was brilliant. And he looks like a very small goalkeeper. Smaller than Casillas even.

Benfica essentially came in with a defensive mentality. Gaitan stayed positional, did not roam and even Mitroglu and Jonas were deployed for high pressure. Bayern has a suspect backline, and a team like Benfica will be able to score against them in Lisbon. The tricky thing will be avoiding the away goal. This is still winnable for Benfica, as frankly, they have been playing like lions lately. Bayern could still take this, but I give the Lisbon giants a legitimate chance to make it to the next round. However, Vitoria needs to unleash the offensive fury and let the boys play.

When they were given reign to push forward, they threatened Bayern. And they had a legitimate penalty appeal turned away. If only we could do something about the awful media punditry and commentary on offer and get some real analysis professionals in there.

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  1. Ed Gomes

Very proud of the club, Vitoria did succumb to the moment and neither did the players.
That handball on Lahm could have called. No sour grapes, even though a draw would have been a fairer result. I too feel that not having that away goal and...

Very proud of the club, Vitoria did succumb to the moment and neither did the players.
That handball on Lahm could have called. No sour grapes, even though a draw would have been a fairer result. I too feel that not having that away goal and Jonas out, will be to much. Regardless the fans at The Luz will still have a lot to root for and be proud of.

The pundits I watched were very complementary of Benfica. They were really impressed in how we pressured and had plenty of opportunities to net more then one.

On side note, let me congratulate Benfica's Handball Championship.
According to the head "Maca Podre", the bloated one, BdC, the refs blew it again. I'm glad to hear that we have enough money to bribe handball refs as well. Finances seem to be ok.

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  1. Andre/UK

Well I wasn't able to see any of the match at all, just been too busy lately to see all the matches, but was quite pleased to hear the result later. Not that I'm ever pleased to lose of course, but to be trailing by only the minimum margin and to...

Well I wasn't able to see any of the match at all, just been too busy lately to see all the matches, but was quite pleased to hear the result later. Not that I'm ever pleased to lose of course, but to be trailing by only the minimum margin and to have every chance for the second leg is positive. As SupremoGino states, Bayern have absolutely hammered some good teams recently and most teams leave Munich with more than a 1-0 deficit.

We have a good chance of qualifying now. Benfica can beat any opponent at a packed Luz, I especially believe this this season under Vitoria. We're so much better tactically and in terms of composure now than we were under JJ. Under JJ we often looked good offensively but always looked vulnerable tactically against the strong teams. Anyway we really have nothing to lose in the second leg so I want to see Vitoria go for it and attack that suspect Bayern backline. Jonas will be missed but Jimenez has actually impressed in the champions league and he will get another chance to now. Let's see what happens!

@Chris: people will always under-estimate Portuguese teams man. That's what makes it so satisfying when our teams do well in Europe. I was reading a quote from Rio Ferdinand saying Man City getting Benfica would be the perfect draw for them, lol. As a matter of fact I was also hoping to get Man City in the draw, as i think this year's Benfica would have given City a good beating. Let them all keep under-estimating and us keep defying the odds!!!

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  1. Portage Dude

Unjust result, unjust media coverage. If you were to just read on a majority of media outlets about the game you would have sworn Bayern wiped the field with Benfica.....which is just not true.

The only mistake Benfica made was getting caught...

Unjust result, unjust media coverage. If you were to just read on a majority of media outlets about the game you would have sworn Bayern wiped the field with Benfica.....which is just not true.

The only mistake Benfica made was getting caught in the moment and allowing that goal 2 mins in. After that they settled and even pushed forward a bit toward the end where they deserved a goal.

Eliseu , when asked to be a stay at home defender suffers a bit. Andre Almeida came back down to earth after that Belgium game. If we are going to open up the affair in Lisbon we have to be weary of our fullbacks.

Bayern suffocated us but we expected it.

Also player of the game is Ederson.

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  1. @dpritchett_SLB

@Andre/UK and SupremoGino: I really enjoy reading your comments on PortuGoal. We are on the lookout for more contributors at PlanetBenfica... If you are interested, please email info@planetbenfica.com for more details. Cheers!

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  1. Mario

@SupremoGino Bayern have never defeated Barcelona with Guardiola at the helm. The 4-0 victory you refer to occurred in Jupp Heynckes last year in which Bayern won everything there was to win; they defeated Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate. At that...

@SupremoGino Bayern have never defeated Barcelona with Guardiola at the helm. The 4-0 victory you refer to occurred in Jupp Heynckes last year in which Bayern won everything there was to win; they defeated Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate. At that time I thought Bayern would go on to dominate world football for the next 3 or 4 years but by bringing in Guardiola they abandoned that cut throat style of play.
Bayern has been out of sorts, they weren't eliminated in the previous round, in my opinion, because Juventus went into a shell in the second half instead of playing football.

It's unfortunate that Benfica didn't score. I can't envision Bayern not scoring in Lisbon but then again I, like many, thought that Benfica would lose by 3 or 4. What was troubling to me in this game was how wide open the Bayern wingers were, especially Ribery, that must change. For Benfica to be successful they must press up high, not allowing Bayern to easily establish itself in the Benfica half, and they must make quick transitions to attack when they get possession. It will be difficult but not impossible.

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  1. Ivo

Unjust result and biased media coverage for sure, but that's unfortunately been the norm for many years now when Portuguese and other less wealthy clubs are concerned. As for Bayern playing in a "one-team league", I don't buy that. Dortmund are...

Unjust result and biased media coverage for sure, but that's unfortunately been the norm for many years now when Portuguese and other less wealthy clubs are concerned. As for Bayern playing in a "one-team league", I don't buy that. Dortmund are only five points back and there is plenty of quality throughout the league. Just look at the latest Wolfsburg result against Real were they could have easily won by three or four. And even Leverkusen is a strong side. The Bundesliga may not be super competitive at the top because of how strong Bayern are, but the league still has several other very strong sides. The fact Bayern are doing so well in a strong league speaks to how good Bayern are and to Pep's quality.

And I think it's a bit harsh to say Guardiola has underperformed at Bayern. He won four trophies in his first season: league title, cup, UEFA super cup and fifa club world cup, followed by a league title the following year. And in the CL he made it to the semifinals twice. If the only metric of success is winning the CL, then I guess he's a failure, because he's won pretty much everything else there is to win over two seasons, and he'll only add to his trophy cabinet after this season with a likely league title possibly UCL title.

I'm cheering for Benfica to win, but let's not play the victim card too much. If people have a seemingly condescending attitude towards Portuguese clubs in these fixtures, it's because there is some basis in reality:

- Benfica vs. Bayern head-to-head all time is 3 wins for Bayern, 0 for Benfica and 2 draws. Bayern scored 11 goals in those matches compared to 2 for Benfica. So is it really that crazy for people to think Bayern should be beating a team like Benfica? I'm sure Sporting's record against similar teams is even worse, and I'm ok with that (just in anticipation of some of you accusing me of bias).

That being said, I could see Benfica winning in the second round at the Luz. Jonas was able to expose Bayern on one really clear occasion and I'm sure he'll have some opportunities to do the same in the second leg.

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  1. Ivo

And by Jonas scoring in the second leg, I mean Mitroglou or whoever else replaces him.

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  1. Mario

@Ivo, Guardiola took over the best club in the world; the fans would be outraged if the domestic success didn't continue. How can Bayern not win domestically when you take into account that they have taken the best players, Goetze and Lewandowski,...

@Ivo, Guardiola took over the best club in the world; the fans would be outraged if the domestic success didn't continue. How can Bayern not win domestically when you take into account that they have taken the best players, Goetze and Lewandowski, of their principal rival Dortmund? Let's face it the Bundesliga is highly skewed in favour of Bayern. Guardiola is not a failure, but let's be honest the odds of him failing with such a club in such a league were very low to begin with. What I feel is that it was a mistake to change the style of play that had made Bayern dominant internationally.

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